How to Grow Paperwhites Straight


Paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta) are members of the daffodil family, but grow quite differently than all other daffodils. They do not require a long chilling period in order to grow. While paperwhites are sometimes planted out in the garden, they are usually grown indoors and are easily forced to grow and bloom any time of the year. Paperwhites are tall and lanky flowers that tend to bend as they grow. Fortunately, Cornell University's Flower Bulb Research Program discovered that if you stunt the growth of the paperwhites with just a little bit of alcohol, they will grow straight. This process is called pickling.

Step 1

Fill a container about 2/3 of the way with rocks, gravel, marbles or similar material and add water until it reaches the top of the rock line. Many gardeners use a glass jar or vase filled with decorative rocks.

Step 2

Set your bulb on top of the rocks with the tip facing up. If you are growing more than one paperwhite, set the bulbs close to one another without touching.

Step 3

Put in a few more rocks just to hold the bulbs in place. Do not add more water. Water should only be touching the base of the bulbs.

Step 4

Set them in a dark, cool location, such as your garage or basement. Around 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.

Step 5

Wait about a week until the paperwhites grow approximately 1 to 2 inches and the roots have begun to grow from the bottom of the bulbs.

Step 6

Dump out the water carefully without removing the bulbs and rocks. Use your hand to hold the bulbs and rocks in place.

Step 7

Replace the plain water with a mixture of alcohol and water. The mixture should only include 4 to 6 percent alcohol. For example, if you use liquor, such as whiskey, rum or tequila, that contains 40 percent alcohol, mix 1 part of the liquor with 7 parts water to yield a total volume that contains around 5 percent alcohol. You can also use rubbing alcohol. If it is 100 percent isopropyl alcohol, use 1 part alcohol to 19 parts water.

Step 8

Place your paperwhites in a sunny location, such as a south-facing window and continue to water the bulbs as needed (to the base of the bulbs) with the alcohol and water mixture.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not use beer, wine or any other alcohol that contains a lot of sugar.

Things You'll Need

  • Container
  • Rocks, gravel, marbles or other similar material
  • Water
  • Alcohol


  • Cornell University: Pickling Your Paperwhites
  • Easy to Grow Bulbs: Pickling Your Paperwhites
  • University of Arkansas: Forcing Paperwhites
Keywords: grow paperwhites straight, alcohol plant growth, add alcohol plants

About this Author

Melissa Lewis has been a professional writer since 2005. Her work has appeared in various online publications. A former elementary classroom teacher and media specialist, Lewis is also a script writer, with a movie script, "Homecoming," she co-wrote currently in production. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology.